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Chasing Daylight

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Chasing Daylight

How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How KPMG CEO Eugene O''Kelly used the last three months of his life to learn how to live – a heartfelt farewell.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


What if a doctor looked you in the eyes today and told you flat-out that you had about 100 days to live, and there was zero chance anything could change that shocking reality? What would you do? How would you spend your last days? In May 2005, Eugene O'Kelly, then the CEO of KPMG, received the bitter news that he wouldn't live out the year due to brain cancer. An accountant by training and a type-A personality by nature, O'Kelly set in motion a strategy for making the most of his last days. Part of that plan included writing a book on how to bring closure to life and prepare for the great transition to come. One conclusion: Sometimes you have to work hard at the "business of dying." O'Kelly's stoic, rational courage in the face of the unknown has produced this gift for all those he left behind. getAbstract recommends it highly for its priceless lessons about how to live.


The Verdict

In May 2005, doctors told Eugene O'Kelly, age 53, chairman and CEO of KPMG U.S. - a $4 billion company with 20,000 employees - that he had inoperable brain cancer and would die in a matter of months. O'Kelly explained, "My days as a man at the top of his game, vigorous and productive, were done, just like that." However, the diagnosis gave him time to think seriously about his life and its meaning. He used his remaining months to make his life in many ways more purposeful than it had ever been.

"I forced myself to acknowledge that I was in the final stage of life, forced myself to decide how to spend my last 100 days (give or take a few weeks), forced myself to act on those decisions," he wrote. While he wouldn't feel pain, due to the cancer's location, he would have symptoms, such as seizures and a gradual loss of abilities, as the cancer made his brain swell and destroyed its tissue.

He likened his coming death to the end of an excellent day of golf, a game he dearly loved. As a day of golf wears on, the shadows gradually lengthen, but the players don't want the game to end, so they chase daylight as they play the course until the game is over.

About the Author

At 53, Eugene O'Kelly was chairman and CEO of KPMG. A lifetime New Yorker, he started with KPMG as an assistant accountant in 1972 and worked his way to the top, becoming U.S. CEO in April 2002. Andrew Postman assisted in writing this book. Philip Ruppel edited it. Corinne O'Kelly wrote the last chapter.

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